Ceasefire agreements signed in recent months between Burma’s government and ethnic armed groups have done little to end fighting in Shan and Karenni states, where a series of clashes in recent days have claimed several lives.
According to Shan sources, government forces launched an offensive against the Shan State Army-North (SSA-North) in southern Shan State over the weekend, just eight days after state-level peace talks were held between the two sides in Mandalay.
The fighting broke out near Mong Awd in Monghsu Township on Saturday, said SSA-North spokesman Maj Sai La.
“They [government troops] retreated after attacking our base for five hours on June 30, but they continued to fire artillery from a distance,” said Sai La. “This morning they fired 36 mortars at us.”
He added that his troops were under orders to return fire only when government soldiers came close to the base. No casualty figures were released by either side.
Following talks in Mandalay on June 22 with government negotiator Thein Zaw, the vice chairman of the Union Peacemaking Working Committee, the SSA-North handed over control of different base to the Burmese army.
As part of a peace agreement signed on Jan. 28, the government agreed to withdraw its troops from specified areas, but they remained in an area east of Wanhai controlled by SSA-North Brigade 1 where clashes have also occurred.
The SSA-North is scheduled to hold Union-level talks this week, said Sai La.
“We will retaliate if they keep coming to our base even though there will be a meeting this week,” he added.
Deadly clashes also took place on June 29 with another ethnic armed group, the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), which signed a peace agreement with the Union government last month.
Five soldiers from the government army’s Infantry Battalion (IB) 530 were killed in the fighting, according to KNPP Secretary Khu Oo Reh. The fighting broke out when troops from IB 530 entered KNPP territory in Mawchi Township, Karenni State, without advance notice.
There is no concrete agreement between the government and the KNPP regarding territorial borders.
“For the past three months since talks started we haven’t allowed our troops to enter their areas. We also told them not let their troops enter our areas,” said Khu Oo Reh.